Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 106, Dances

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web.

Music and dance have been closely interconnected since the dawn of time. Many cultures and languages use a single word to describe both art forms. It is very likely that music and dance developed together and were used to celebrate and honor events like birth, marriage, the harvest, and other rituals.

It is no surprise then that David’s musical canon is filled with many kinds of dances. This week, we feature three compositions in which David experiments with dance forms: Montana Music: Three Dances for Percussion, Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble, and Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Wind Ensemble.

Montana Music: Three Dances for Percussion – II. Slowly

From David’s Program Note:

At first I had difficulty composing this piece. Given the nearly unlimited possibilities in the percussion ensemble, I started with preconceived notions of all the sounds I would like to hear. The piece didn’t want to be any of those things and refused to be written until I opened myself to what wanted to come out. Then the piece came quickly and fairly smoothly. The resulting three slow movements are not something I could or would have preplanned. They are nocturnal, lunar, inward pieces, dedicated to the spirit of the earth, which speaks through them. Through this music I have a very personal vision of the slow dance of creation, transformation and rebirth.

Watch below as the Oklahoma State University Concert Percussion Ensemble gives a beautiful rendition of Movement II.

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Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble – II. Dance

From David’s Program Note:

The Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble grows out of my life-long association with the clarinet. It was my beginning instrument over sixty years ago, and has stayed with me all through the years. I have written many pieces for it, and it is now a deeply personal voice through which my music speaks freely and passionately.

This concerto is full of deep feeling, but it does not have a personal story. The two movements, “Lamentation” and “Dance,” present the classic masks of tears and laughter. “Lamentation” is very interior and very beautiful – it breaks my heart. “Dance” unfolds in the old sonata form with clear melodies, a bubbling and sometimes urgent energy, and a final release into beautiful quiet.

Watch below as Jeff W. Ball leads Jeffrey Hodes, Clarinet and the Brooklyn Wind Symphony in a thrilling performance of “Dance.”

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Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Wind Ensemble – V. Groucho’s Dance

Like the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Song Book for FluteConcerto No. 2 is in five movements with each movement being song-like and having a programmatic backdrop. Movement 5, “Groucho’s Dance,” comes from a story David read in the Sarah Lawrence Magazine in which Groucho Marx visits the town in Germany where his mother had been born, and instead of getting to visit his mother’s grave, takes a taxi to Berlin and dances the Charleston on Adolf Hitler’s grave. According to Maslanka, “When I read this story, I was electrified. To me, this single gesture is a defining moment in the twentieth century, and in what it means to be fully human.” On the music itself Maslanka said, “(It is) a free-wheeling romp. It is fast and energetic, with a bit of a biting and sarcastic edge.”

Watch below as Stephen K. Steele leads Steven Hesla and the Illinois State University Wind Ensemble in a stirring rendition of “Groucho’s Dance.”

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We would love to hear from you! If you know of any outstanding performances of David Maslanka’s music on the web, please email us at